Author: Nevan McKiernan

Charolais Ticks All The Boxes For Donegal Suckler Farmer

‘It is hard to beat a Charolais Weanling or Store when it comes to the Marts, they are simply always in demand!’

John Barron runs a successful 40 cow suckler herd on his 55 ha farm in County Donegal.  He is a firm believer in the Charolais breed having used Charolais sires on his farm for the past 30 years, and states that “Charolais have always suited this area”.  Some of the farms production is focused on a calf to beef enterprise with his bullocks being killed at under 30 months. His heifers, that have not already been selected as replacements, are sold as store animals in the local mart.


The cows are predominantly Charolais, Limousin and Simmental crosses and are calved down in the spring time, beginning in January.  John’s Charolais stock bull, ‘WHINFORT ISSAC’ sired by Excellent, was purchased at the Irish Charolais Society’s Christmas Cracker sale in 2014.  ‘ISSAC’ has a terminal figure of €168 and comes from quite a prolific pedigree.  His dam, ‘Whinfort Callic’ being 12 years old, has produced 9 calves to date and his grand-dam, ‘Whinfort Olivia’ being an impressive 21 years old, has produced a total of 17 calves in her lifetime.

John is a participant in the Beef Data Genomics Programme (BDGP) scheme and when selecting his bull, he states that “stars weren’t that big of an influence at the time when buying the bull, but I am lucky in that my bull had quite a high terminal figure to meet the requirements of the scheme”.


Examples of WHINFORT ISSAC’s progeny 

How are John’s Charolais progeny performing where it counts?

With the bullocks being reared and finished on his farm, John states that he aims to have his bullocks achieving their maximum weight by 30 months of age and that “the heavier they are, the better”.  The reasoning for selecting to convert his bull weanlings into bullocks is because he felt the under 16 month bull beef system was quite intensive. He wanted to allow his Charolais animals to develop more naturally.  The kill out weights for his animals come into an average of 430kgs – 440kgs dead weight, with some of the most recent animals slaughtered achieving a high of up to 470kgs.  Whilst reaching these weights, John is also achieving grades of between a U+ to R=.

Traditionally the farm would try to finish Charolais bullocks off grass in September, but in recent years John has been killing them earlier in the summer to meet factory demands.  The heifers on the farm are kept up until they reach a target weight of between 500kgs – 530kgs, and would be sold as store animals in the local mart in Ballyshannon.  He consistently see’s repeat custom for his quality heifer’s year on year as he sells them.

John places great faith in his Charolais sire as he states that “his performance is everything I want” and that “he ticks all the boxes when it comes to easy calving”‘Issac’ has a calving figure of just 6% and he explained that “on this farm I need an easy calving bull, quite simply because you are going to find it hard to get someone to calve a cow with you at 3 am in the morning”.

In conclusion, having used Charolais on his farm for the past 30 years, John always noted that “it is hard to beat the Charolais weanling or store animal as they have always been and will always be in demand, especially around this area”.  A quote which is regularly used by both buyers and commercial farmers using Charolais sires on their farm.

John Barron with one of his Charolais Cross Cow’s and Calf on his Farm in County Donegal

Summer Shows 2019

Cloonglasna Oscar – Overall Charolais Champion in Ballinrobe exhibited by the Egan brothers 

Crossane Niamh – Reserve Champion in Ballinrobe exhibited by the Mc Govern brothers 

Goldstar Organdi – Interbreed Calf Champion in Charleville. Overall Charolais Champion went to Goldstar Falkland, both exhibited Martin Ryan and family

Colomane Popeye – Champion in Dunmanway exhibited by John Ward 

Noble Prince – Champion Charolais in Longford Show exhibited by Harry Noble 

Tonyglasson Olive – Reserve Champion in Longford Show exhibited by Martin Hughes 

Goldstar Osanna – Interbreed Calf Champion in Clonmel Show exhibited by Martin Ryan and family

Grangwood Only You – Champion Charolais in Cork Show exhibited by Gerry O’ Keeffe 


As part of this year’s World Charolais Technical Congress, there will be two Farm walks open to all Charolais members. Both promise to be wonderful event’s.

Skidoo Charolais Herd – Monday the 5th August at 4 pm – Eircode A41fw54

The Skidoo Charolais herd needs no introduction, as it is one of the oldest and largest Charolais herds in Ireland. Established in 1966 by Omer Van Landeghem, Skidoo is located in Ballyboughal, Co. Dublin, a mere 10 minutes from Dublin Airport. In 1995 Skidoo farm and herd was purchased by local businessman and farmer, Pat McDonagh.

Sires like Shamrock Ambassador, Flambeau, Emperor, Uranus and Commander were many of the iconic bulls Skidoo introduced to Ireland. In the early year’s, Skidoo was always prominent in winning rosettes at the RDS with prominent sire lines, such as Skidoo Champion and Skidoo Pacha.

Today the herd consists of 100 pure bred registered Charolais cows, which are run in conjunction with 160 commercial cows. All pedigree cows are bred to AI, with 50% calving in the Autumn and 50% in the Spring. Skidoo Charolais were always renowned for milk, and as this is a large Pedigree herd, it is paramount that every cow is able to rear her own calf.

Farm Manager Donal Callery insists the breeding policy is simple, we breed what the market requires. At this time we are trying to breed Cattle that are easy calving, fertile, mature early, posses sound feet and legs, and at the same time, try to maintain milk within our females. If a cow is not achieving the above, she is culled.

Grassland management is key on this farm, as Skidoo have a long grazing season of 10 months. To make the most of this grazing season they have a paddock grazing system in place. Grass is grown in 3 weeks and grazed in 3 days. Donal admits farmers flock to the farm to purchase animals that are grass fed and not pushed with concentrate’s. Skidoo offers a bit of everything, it is as fine a farm as you are likely to see anywhere on the island and promises not to disappoint.

Farm Manager Donal Callery with a group of Norwegian Charolais breeders at Skidoo in 2015

Bostonia Charolais Herd – Saturday the 10th August at 12 pm – Eircode F26F5N2

Scurmore Pedigree’s was established in 2013, when Brendan and Gregory Feeney set up the Bostonia Pedigree Charolais herd. The 250 acre grass based farm comprises of 120 commercial cows, 20 pedigree cows and 30 embryo calves each year. The success of the herd began when Bostonia Indigo and Bostonia Invincible III were awarded Junior Champion and Reserve Senior Champion, respectively, at the Christmas Cracker in 2014.  This was followed by a number of successful show seasons throughout the Country for the herd, before Bostonia Joy was awarded the Senior Female Champion at the Christmas Cracker in 2016.

In 2018, the UK bred, Drumshane Mademoiselle was awarded the Overall Charolais Champion in Balmoral and Overall Charolais Champion at the National Charolais Show in Tullamore, an incredible achievement that few have conquered. She was accompanied all year by the outstanding Bessiebelles Millie. Both will be on display on Saturday the 10th August.

The herd’s aim is to breed females which are functional, efficient and fertile, while concentrating on easy calving and milk traits. Pedigree bulls are bred for domestic and international markets and must be functional, fruitful and have longevity. This is achieved by using top blood lines, through artificial insemination. Overlooking the beautiful western coastline, Scurmore is a picturesque farm on the dullest of days.

Bostonia Pedigree Charolais Herd